Shrub small; Shrub medium
Golden Spurge, Geel Melkbos
yellow; winter spring
sun; dry soils; sandy soils; rockery gravel gardens; wildlife bees flies insects
fynbos; coastal eastern cape; coastal kzn; hot dry; grassland; rocky places
karoo; western cape; thicket; highveld; subtropical east coast; nama karoo
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Among the range of succulent greens at the BotSoc Indigenous Plant Fair in September, the yellow-soft green of the cylindrical branches drew instant attention. The Euphorbia family has never been a favourite of mine, but the pastel green shade is wonderfully attractive, the spineless stems able to move gently with the breeze despite their rather solid appearance. At regular intervals up the stem, which is as thick as a drinking straw, are faint yellow circles called leaf scars, subtly segmenting each length. The surface is smooth to the touch. While the stems grow out from the root area in a compact group, they are relatively sparse, spreading out to form quite an open shrub of up to 1.5 m in height. Flowering occurs from August through to October, tiny butter yellow daisy-like shapes with 5 round petals that surround a white center which is slightly raised. They perch on the very tip of each branch and the full flower is no more than 2 cm in diameter. Flowers of the Euphorbia family have a general term, Cyathea. When cut or damaged, it will ooze a milky sap which is reputed to be used by the Bushmen, bush which is suggested to kill sheep. In fact it is suggested that it is poisonous to all but the steenbok and klipspringers. Growing conditions favoured by this plant are typical of the genus as a whole, dry climate and well -draining soils and it is a successful drought hardy species. As with most succulents, it will be a good choice within a fairly large rockery where it can be mixed with succulents in shades of russets, reds and dark greens. Try Kalanchoe sexangularis which turns an intense maroon-red in winter, or behind a display of Aloe vanbalenii, whose orange/rust winter leaves or apple green summer leaves will make a beautiful combination. The lime-green Crassula capitella will enhance the similar soft green of the Euphorbia stems, the bright yellow of the Glottiphyllum, in flower at the same time, will bring out the soft yellows of both the inflorescence and the light touches on the stems. Add touches of strong contrast to these harmonious mixes with Kalanchoe sexangularis, the large round grey/red Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, or the large ears of the Cotyledon orbiculata With a wide natural distribution range from the coast inland to where it happily survives colder winters, it is well represented in natural areas in the Northern, Western and Eastern Cape, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. It is one of the dominant shrubs in valleys and hillsides in the Succulent Karoo biome. It is a fast growing shrub and can be used as a pioneer species in quite difficult garden areas. Easy to propagate from stem cuttings and from seed, success is better if thicker cuttings are taken from close to the base of the plant and planted in a very well -draining seedling mix. River sand is always a good choice, but remember to ensure the cut dries out and forms a scab before placing into the mix. New roots will form within a month. Wildlife attractions: While I don’t have personal experience with this plant, Kirstenbosch specialist, Johan Booysens suggests that it is a species that is used by a number of pollinating species and will thus be used by many insects like ants, bees, wasps and flies. The name derivation is interesting: Mauretania is an ancient country in North Africa, named for the Mauri tribe of the area, for which the Moors were named.